March 23rd, 2011
Tall Tales And Male Bonding In East LA

Back in the G0od Ol’ Bad Days, my family was part of the working poor caught inside the vortex of the Reagan Revolution. My father worked as a railroad laborer and would often find himself underemployed. He relied on a spark of creativity when it came to family outings. We would spend most weekends at Lincoln Park – which would become the cradle of my deviancy. Lincoln Park was formally East Los Angeles Park, located on Valley Boulevard complete, with a lake and multiple spots that provided solace from the eyes of authority. Although the park is big, when viewed with childhood eyes, it seemed to go on forever and ever.

My mother would never go to these outings. She always claimed that she needed the time to get an upper hand on household chores. Looking back at it now, she probably stayed behind in order to reclaim any sliver of sanity she had left. She would make my father swear on his life that he would not drink and spend the afternoon with us. He would cross his heart and break his pledges by the time we rounded the corner, into the liquor store. He did not want to show up empty-handed.

My father would drink warm beers with cool friends whom he had known from his hometown in Jalisco, México. He would pretend to keep an eye on us, but instead would deposit my younger sister in a sandbox located in the unsupervised playground. I would run off with the other boys as we competed over who could be the worst influence. We took advantage of every square inch of that park. As boys, it was our self-appointed duty to carry things to lengths that were entirely too far. If someone dared to touch a dead squirrel, someone had to poke it with a stick. Eventually someone would be delegated to chucking its organs at the girls inside the sandbox. No one ever dared anyone else, because there was some sort of subconscious knowledge that the game had to be elevated.

Lincoln Park was my personal twisted amusement park. I was not like most dying children and professional athletes who fantasize about going to Disneyland; because this place was better than Disneyland. This place made all your dreams comes true – assuming your dreams consisted of watching drunk grown men fight over the merits of their tall tales. One of the men claimed to have hit a 600-foot homerun off a Fernando Valenzuela fastball back when he was passing through Sonora. Another claimed that he would have been on the Mexican National Soccer team in 1986 had it not been for an immigration status issue. Finally, a king was declared among the drunkards when one of the men claimed to have the Mexican president’s ear, and all it would take was a phone call from him in order to set things straight.

My father would always race the sun. He did not want to be there after dark because that was when the dope fiends, the crazies and the perverts looking to fulfill their jollies came out to play. My sister and I knew that it was time to start collecting our things when the sun was at shoulder length, because my father made no bones about leaving us with the depraved open sores of society.

I think this was my father’s way of maintaining his respectability and responsibility, because we all knew what would happen. He would have ended up chasing a good time at the bottom of a six-pack with one of the men aspiring to the royal linage of liars. He had children now, and a wife at home, thereby relinquishing his spot in the quest for the throne.

Follow Oscar Barajas on Twitter @Oscarcoatl

[Image Courtesy Image Archeology]

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